Sunday, 24th September 2017
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Cork in Thurles

On Sunday next in Semple Stadium Thurles the second of the Munster Senior Hurling Semi-Finals will see old adversaries Waterford and Cork lock horns. There is no doubt but the County Tipperary venue has a habit of bringing out the best in both teams and there is no reason to suggest why Sunday next can not once again provide a terrific encounter. This is the opening game in the championship for the Deise who have already seen Cork put reigning champions Tipperary "to the sword" 2-27 to 1-26. The Rebels will be buoyed following this win over their great Munster rivals and also the fact that they defeated Waterford in the Allianz National League 1-21 to 1-13 in Walsh Park back in March although one must say that Waterford did not bring their "A" game on that occasion. However, Cork manager Kieran Kingston and his team will be brimming with confidence after recent results and know on any occasion a game can turn a season.

The team from Leeside saw a number of new recruits to championship hurling and their performance, perhaps more than anything else, will have pleased the backroom team. They have of course a number of vastly experienced players to accompany the younger brigade. In goal Anthony Nash is one of the best shot stoppers in the game and his clearances can be pinpoint. The full back line will see Damien Cahalane, Stephen McDonnell and young Colm Spillane closing the door at every occasion.

Christopher Joyce and Mark Coleman will flank Mark Ellis who will surely play in the pivotal number six spot. Midfield will be entrusted to Bill Cooper and Darragh Fitzgibbon with Luke Meade, Shane Kingston, Patrick Horgan, Seamus Harnedy, Alan Cagogan and the very dangerous Conor Lehan

(0-10 against Tipp) giving much attacking flair to a free scoring forward division. Indeed the last three players provided 1-8 from play in the game against the Premier so will take plenty of watching. The management have other riches at their disposal in Bandon clubman Michael Cahalane, Luke O'Farrell and Lorcan McLoughlan who will be ready and eager if called upon. They will be well aware that another step up is required for Sunday.

IS THIS THE YEAR?

Waterford go into this game following a pretty topsy-turvey Allianz League campaign. On their day the Deise team are up there amongst those at the top of the tree. Over the last few years they come preciously close to an All-Ireland Final but the road which starts on Sunday next can have so many twists and turns. Derek McGrath and his fellow backroom team have left no stone unturned for this opening encounter. A number of challenge games have given the management the opportunity of looking nover the squad and no doubt they now have formulated a plan to bet through this Thurles encounter and go forward to meet Clare who beat Limerick 3-17 to 2-16 in the other semi-final.

Waterford have two of the best netminders in the game at present with Stephen O'Keeffe and Ian O'Regan, both at the top of their game. The full back line will see Barry Coughlan on the edge of the square with Noel Connors and Shane Fives in the corners although both Shane McNulty and Kieran Bennett have shown up well recently. Rest assured whatever the lineup very little will be conceded from that line against what looks a dangerous Cork full forward outfit. There are a number of imponderables surrounding the half back line. One thing is certain, Tadhg de Burca will man the number six spot. With some doubt surroundin a few players carrying injury, I would expect that Austin Gleeson, although maybe not selected there, will revert to a more defensive midfield role, Darragh Fives, Stephen Daniels, and Philip Mahony will be fighting for a starting spot. The midfield engine room will surely see Jamie Barron and Kevin Moran although the versatile Shane Bennett or Colin Dunford with his pace could easily slot in there. Up front the management have a wealth of riches. Paudie Mahony, Stephen Bennett, Patrick Curran, Michael Walsh, Brian O'Halloran, Maurice Shanahan, Jake Dillon and Tommy Ryan can all open up a defence and get scores given the least bit of space.

A number of players who as yet have not made a championship first fifteen have done themselves no harm in recent games and will have given Derek McGrath and his management more food for thought.

All in all, I do believe that we have a squad of players well capable of winning and indeed, without tempting fate, being serious contenders. Get to Thurles early is my only advice as there will surely be in excess of thirty thousand at the venue if one looks at the history of crowds at Waterford and Cork championship games.

CATS CHINNED

Kilkenny, the reigning Leinster Senior Hurling Champions are out of the competition following a thrilling game at Wexford Park on Saturday evening where the home side came through on a 1-20 to 3-11 scoreline. On very few occasions does one player command the "black type" in a championship game but on this occasion it's fair to say that the

Slaneysiders had such a player in Lee Chin. The Faythe Harriers clubman was simply immense and was the driving force behind this huge win for Wexford.

The ground on Slaneyside was packed to the rafters as former Waterford manager, and now the Wexford Bainisteoir Davy Fitzgerald, plotted the downfall of Brian Cody and his charges. Fans of the home side celebrated at the final whistle, no doubt, making up for having suffered so many defeats to their neighbours over the past decade. One should however certainly not write off the Cats. They are well capable of bouncing back and along with Tipperary will be a formidable challenge in the qualifiers. For now Wexford can celebrate but they still have a Leinster Final against Galeway on the horizon.

CAMOGIE

Hard luck to the Waterford camogie team who were beaten by a hugely talented Kilkenny in Walsh Park on Saturday in the opening round of the All-Ireland series. The visitors led throughout with a goal from Shelly Farrell giving them a 1-9 to 0-4 lead at the break. Beth Carton did land a couple of points for Waterford but Kilkenny reigning All-Ireland and National League champions and going for title number four in a row, possess huge championship experience at this level. Waterford did make a valiant effort in the second half and kept their opponents scoreless for much of the opening quarter with Beth Carton adding a point to the tally, but five unanswered points plus a late late goal from Katie Power saw the Cats home.

CELTIC CHALLHNGE

East Waterford continued their impressive form in the Celtic under 17 Challenge with another win, this time over North Clare 3-14 to 2-14. Leading at the break 2-12 to 1-4 (Goals from Dylan Fitzgerald and Cormac Power) the lads from the Deise closed out some fierce Clare attacks. A third goal from Seaghan Walsh in the second half gave the Deise lads a lead that they subsequently held right to the end. This result qualifies East Waterford for the semi-final of the competition which also sees Dublin Plunkett, Limerick City and Down into the last four. A feature of the Waterford win was the superb shooting of Ballygunner clubman Jack Troy who bagged a huge ten points during the course of the game.

However West Waterford went out of the competition as they were on the wrong end of the scoreline and went down to Limerick City 2-18 to 1-12.

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